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Volunteer Placements and Rights

Information in this section explains the basic rights for people who are active in volunteer placements. Check the rules and restrictions on pay and expenses for volunteers. You can also use the details in this help guide to help you find volunteering opportunities in the United Kingdom and abroad.

Where to Find Volunteer Placements UK

Note: Check the noticeboard of your local library services for other opportunities for volunteer placements in the United Kingdom or the local newspapers.

Volunteering for Young Adults

Young people in the United Kingdom can register for different types of volunteering placements through:

Extra Help from Jobcentre Plus

There are additional opportunities available through Jobcentre Plus for unemployed people who are looking for work experience and volunteering. You can also read more about the specific Jobcentre Plus help for recruiters that they offer through their volunteering and employment schemes.

Do Volunteers Have Rights?

As a volunteer, you would not have a contract of employment. Thus, you would NOT have the same rights as an employee or a worker. In most cases, you would get a volunteer agreement explaining:

  • What level of training, supervision, and support you will get as a volunteer.
  • The procedures and issues relating to health and safety.
  • Whether employer or public liability insurance of the organisation covers you.
  • What, if any, expenses the organisation will be covering while you are volunteering for them.

Note: A volunteer agreement is not compulsory and it does not form a contract between the volunteer and the organisation. Instead, it sets out some general expectations. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has further information on treating volunteers as employees and the risks involved.

Restrictions on Volunteers

Upper and Lower Age Limits

As a general rule, there is no upper age limit on volunteering. Even so, insurance policies for some organisations will not cover people under the age of sixteen (16) or over a specified age (very often 80 years old).

Note: Children under the age of 14 cannot work for a profit-making organisation (even if they do not get paid).

Local council authorities might also place extra rules relating to the work that young people can do. So, as an example, if the council decides a charity shop is a profit-making organisation you might not be able to volunteer there.

Note: Over 10,000 older people (50+) volunteer with Volunteering Matters each year across the United Kingdom through their Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme (RSVP).

Volunteering and Claiming Benefits

As a rule, you will be able to become a volunteer and still claim DWP welfare benefits, providing you:

  • Continue to meet all the qualifying conditions of the welfare benefit that you are getting.
  • Only receive money from volunteering to cover your expenses (e.g. travel costs).
Criminal Records

Depending on the offence committed, you can still volunteer in most roles even if you have a criminal record. But, to volunteer with children or with vulnerable adults you may need to comply with a Disclosure and Barring Service check.

Volunteer Payment and Expenses

Even though you do not get paid for time as a volunteer you might get some money to cover your expenses. As a rule, it will be limited to drink, food, travel or any specialised equipment that you need to buy.

Getting back more money than you spent means you may need to pay tax on driving expenses. HM Revenue and Customs produce guidance notes to check if you need to pay tax on mileage payments as a volunteer driver.

Some volunteers might get other payments, benefits in kind (BIK), or rewards. In this case, you could get classed as having employee status or worker status – rather than a volunteer. It might also include a promise of a contract or doing paid work in the future.

Note: You would have entitlement to the minimum wage and certain other employment rights by being classed as an employee or a worker.


Apply for a Public Appointment

You can search the public appointments website to find voluntary or paid positions with public bodies. You might get a public appointment with a national museum or a specialist advisory council.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

The ‘QAVS’ is an award for outstanding achievement. In fact, The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award given to groups of volunteers throughout the United Kingdom.

Volunteer as a Magistrate

The process of becoming a magistrate does require applicants to have any formal qualifications. But, there are restrictions on who can and cannot apply to volunteer as a magistrate.

Volunteer for the Coastguard Rescue Service

Volunteers help to make up the Coastguard Rescue Service carrying out search and rescue missions along the shoreline. Find out how to volunteer as a coastguard and what to expect from the role.

Volunteer to Aid Humanitarian Disasters

There are ways to donate and volunteer to aid humanitarian disasters or to humanitarian emergencies overseas by giving money, time, and skills.

Volunteer Placements and Rights in United Kingdom